Little Miss. Lucky

I’ve never considered myself to be an overly lucky person. I had a one-off incident in Macau back in 2009 where I won approximately $400 playing roulette. Normally, you’d catch me at the penny slots because I hate the thought of gambling away all my money, but I’d gone to see a fortune teller in Hong Kong the night before (Chinese people are HUGE into fortune telling and my sisters and I went to see one just for sh*ts and giggles) and he rambled off my lucky numbers. I won’t repeat them just in case it’s bad luck…Chinese people are also extremely superstitious.

I gave into peer pressure after much urging from my sisters and boldly went to the roulette table that was only occupied by older men. I placed my bets and won – 3 times in a row. Maybe there’s something to be said for fortune tellers…

I thought that was the end of my lucky streak…then this week happened. Let’s rewind…

In the Cotswolds

I went up to Stratford-upon-Avon for a mini business trip last week and somehow ended up at an event I never imagined myself attending in a million years. I attended a Cricket Benefit in the Cotswolds. I have an imaginary ‘Very English things to do while living in the UK’ bucketlist, consisting of things like:

  • Taking a picture with a Buckingham Palace guard, standing beside a red telephone booth
  • Having high tea with the Queen
  • Buying a pair of Hunters so I can endure the constant downpour of rain in comfort
  • Saying ‘Cheers’ and ‘Ta’ whenever possible and downing beers with my mates

It wasn’t my intention to attend a cricket benefit, but I added it onto my bucketlist (post-event) and awarded it the title of being the most English thing I’ve done to-date.

Apparently, benefit years/seasons are a pretty popular concept in the UK (maybe Canada too, but I’m so not into the sporting scene that I’m not really sure. Feel free to pitch in your comments). Benefits are held by professional sportspeople (I think cricket and rugby are the most popular ones) as a way of financially compensating them for being a longtime player. It started out as a way to help out professional players who were generally paid low wages and out of work by age 40.

Players are allowed to apply for one benefit throughout the course of the sports career to raise funds. Benefit seasons typically comprise of dinners, auctions, balls, and other big events to raise money and depending on how much effort is put in, players can make a few ten thousands of pounds to as much as a few hundred thousand pounds! It’s a pretty prestigious affair since the whole year is dedicated to celebrating the player (Imagine that, just having a whole year dedicated to raising money for yourself by throwing parties!).

Since players are now awarded pretty decent wages it’s now common to give away part/all of the funds raised over the course of the year to a charity of choice.

Anyhow, one of the players in the region has just started his benefit year and since my boss’ wife is on the cricket committee I was invited to attend. Lemme tell ya, I felt more out of place there than when I stepped into a hillbilly buffet in the mid-west during my cross-country road trip across the US. I stepped into the restaurant and had people gawking at me like a zoo animal. I’m not sure if it was because they’d never seen an Asian person before or if it was because they’d never seen anyone under 150 lbs before.

The pub the benefit was held at was a COMPLETE sausagefest (people who don’t know the term, a sausagefest refers to an event that is dominated by males) and I was one of four females there. The other was my boss’ wife and the servers. I felt like I was in the gentlemen’s club. I’m still not used to being the outsider, though I’ve become pretty pro at answering the typical questions I get when people first meet me. A typical dialogue generally goes as follows:

Person: Are you American?

Me: No, I’m Canadian (I love wearing my Roots Canada zip-up for this very reason)

Person: Oh! My best friend’s nephew’s girlfriend’s grandma is from Canada!

Me: Wow, really? Where from? Maybe I know her!

Person: So it’s probably really warm here compared to where you’re from.

Me: (Are you bloody kidding me? It’s flippin’ freezing here and just because I’m from Canada doesn’t mean I’ve got dinosaur hide) Oh yes, I’m very grateful for the sub-tropical weather you’ve got here…it’s terribly inconvenient living in an igloo. Every time I try to turn the heating on, my house just melts away.

Person: Say roof!

Me: *sigh* Roof

Person: Ha! You said ruff!! Listen everyone! She calls a roof a ruff!

Moving along…I spent the night trying to care/learn about cricket but up until then I knew absolutely NOTHING about it. I’d seen the Indian guys in residence playing it but that’s about as close in contact I ever came to the sport. I had someone spend a good two hours trying to explain it to me but all I know is that it includes: bowlers, batters, different colours of green grass, people whipping hard balls at you, knocking some sticks to the ground, and that games can last 1-7 days. From what I gathered it’s a combination of baseball and soccer. Maybe a little bit of basketball as well…I’m not entirely sure.

The fun part of my night was when we got to the raffle draw. So many prizes were up for grabs but since there were a good 100 people in attendance I didn’t think my chances of winning were all too high. I had 5 numbers displayed in front of me and imagine my excitement when 170 was called!! I yelped when I read the corresponding number and went up to collect my prize with as much pride as Jennifer Lawrence when she picked up her Oscar. Luckily for me, I didn’t trip on my way. I got to choose what was left on the prize table and my options were: a) A fish ‘n chips dinner for two b) An autographed photo of some cricket team with all the members’ signatures c) bottle of brandy. Tough decision? I think not. *Just in case you haven’t figured out which prize I took back let me give you a hint; I can’t stand fish and chips and based on what I’ve told you about cricket I’m sure you can gather that my knowledge on the subject is fairly limited and thus, my interest in a signed team photo fairly low*

And why do I make a big deal about the Cotswolds? Because it’s just SO English. It’s considered one of the most beautiful places in the UK and has been designated as the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I’d love to show you pictures but when I go and visit I generally spend my days working :(

A lot of the rich Londoners have second homes in the Cotswolds (maybe equivalent to the Muskokas?) and if you want to go celebrity hunting you’ll find that the following either reside in the area or have homes there: Lily Allen, Hugh Grant, Stella McCartney, Patrick Stewart, Damien Hirst, Kate Moss, Elizabeth Hurley, JK Rowling, and Kate Winslet.

Down in Dorset

I spent the weekend at M’s grandparents place (yes, AGAIN!) and had a nice and tranquil weekend. Funny how if I were to “relax” in Bath I’d be bored but when I “relax” in Broadwindsor it’s just peaceful countryside living.

We attended a bingo event Saturday night to help support the village allotment group (they’re raising money for a new sprinkler system). We arrived at the town hall and I was surprised to see how many people were there. I didn’t think my competition was going to be so stiff and the competitive demon within urged me to buy extra raffle tickets and bingo books. Oh yes, let the games begin!

We had six rounds of bingo to go through and I had 3 bingo books in front of me. With prizes being handed out to those who completed a full line and for those who got a full house, I figured my chances of winning were pretty decent.

WOW, what an intense night! I was seriously sitting on the edge of my seat every time I was one or two numbers away from yelling BINGO. I knew I was on the cusp of winning and just needed one more number to be called – 40. I told my table I was just one number away from winning and M told me not to make a big scene and to just calmly state “House” if the magic number was called. Guess what, folks? The magic number was called. Did I stay calm? Hells no! I mean, you always HOPE that number will be called but you never actually EXPECT it to! I’m not one to keep excitement bottled up so I let everyone in the hall know that I appreciated my win and proudly walked back to my table with a delicious box of truffles in hand.

I made it through the rest of the game without a win (Thank goodness! It would’ve been embarrassing to collect another prize and I didn’t wish to have the town wanting to throw eggs at the foreign girl) but was still excited when it came time for the raffle draw. I had scoped out the prizes when I first walked in and had my eye set on a chilli and smoked salt grinder. I’ve come to love kitchen products and I could hear the soul of the grinder telling me to buy raffle tickets…that I was meant to win it. So I bought 3 strips of raffle tickets (I never buy raffle tickets!). Number after number was called…M’s nan’s number was called and she was so chilled about it. She walked up, collected her tin of shortbread cookies and came back to the table all nonchalant, like “meh, I win prizes all the time…no biggie” (Yes, that’s exactly what she said…).

I’m sure you can guess what happened next… “yellow – 240”. AAAHHHHHH!!!! ME!!!!!! Yes, I jumped up and I got excited. And I realized as I went up to collect my beloved grinder that there were, in fact, people who wanted to throw eggs at me. I came to this realization when I overheard someone say “that girl AGAIN?”

My lucky streak may have continued all night long…if someone did throw rotten eggs at me I managed to escape completely unscathed. So, what am I having for dessert tonight? Just some truffles sprinkled with smoked salt and chilli with a snifter of brandy 😉

Holy Jubilation!!

This year marks Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, which means many things:

  1. It’s her 60th year in reign
  2. The UK will receive an extra holiday just to celebrate it
  3. Even the most unsuspecting will become very nationalistic
  4. You don’t want to be in a big city unless you love crowds, love tourists, and love complete and utter insanity

I like the holiday part of it and that’s about it. I knew Bath was going to be packed with people ready to celebrate, decked out in their big fancy hats, getting rowdy with pints of beer in hand, so when M suggested going to see his grandparents again I was more than willing to make the escape and stay safely tucked away in the countryside.

We’ve been getting phenomenal weather in the UK for the past week and a half. By phenomenal I don’t mean 17 degrees and slight chance of sun (which normally would be my definition of phenomenal if I hadn’t experienced what I’m going to explain to you next…), but 26-29 degrees, sunny sky without a cloud in sight! So imagine my disappointment when I discovered that my 4-day weekend was going to be filled with…that’s right- rain. I guess it wouldn’t be a real English affair if there wasn’t the typical weather to match.

So while in Bath there are huge concerts and ballroom galas going on, guess how our little town in Dorset celebrated!? We started off the day with a scarecrow competition. The theme was “A right royal household” (duh) and with 29 participants we had a pretty nice stroll around town checking out all the contestants’ entries. M’s nan entered the competition as well and hers was BY FAR the most original. Extra points from me for most original material (seaweed) and most original…smell. While most people created typical scarecrows with straw and some with papier maché, adorned with masks of people from the royal family, M’s nan got her creativity juices flowing and created what was titled “Queen of the Sea”. I may be slightly biased, but it really was somewhat of a masterpiece. She handpicked seaweed, drilled holes into shells to create a shell necklace, used whole crab shells as lips (I wish I could’ve been the one who sacrificed eating the crab meat in order to use the shells) and the result was one extremely foul-smelling WINNING scarecrow. Tada!

Next event on the to-do list was the Cream Tea ceremony. I looked forward to this event all day because cakes that were a part of the morning’s Victorian Angel Cake competition were served here. I think I may have made a slight spectacle of myself when I arrived at the church grounds for the ceremony because what unfolded before my very eyes was a scenario so stereotypically English that I couldn’t contain my excitement. Everyone was dressed up in England’s colours (red, white, and blue for those of you who don’t know…reminds me of another extremely patriotic country), under a white tent, sipping tea out of china cups and eating the cake and scones. You’d NEVER see anything like this at home unless someone decided to throw a hoity-toity party, but here I was, sitting amongst people where it’s the norm to drink tea with your pinkies standing erect. Fabulous, I tell you. Simply fabulous.

But you know what wasn’t so fabulous? This product I was semi-forced to eat. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s a food item particular to the southern part of England that I just don’t care for. That’s right, you read correctly. There’s a food item I just can’t bear to eat. I know this may come as a big shock to you all, but there’s no need to haul in the psych team. I’m still the same person you all know and love, it’s just that this particular person doesn’t happen to like CLOTTED CREAM. Doesn’t just the sound of you put you off? It’s like a heart attack waiting to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I love me (not a typo…that’s meant to be said in an Irish accent) fatty foods. Bring on McDonald’s fries and Wonderland’s Elephant Ears, but clotted cream? BLECHH. Imagine putting on hunks and chunks of thick lard on bread and that should bring to mind a concept similar to clotted cream on scones. Everyone here goes mad for it but I had to scrape most of it off. Whereas other people’s scones were piled with clotted cream that doubled the height of the scone I not-so-slyly gave all my extras to M and let him bear the health guilt trip.

There was another event that took place, one you would never in a million years find taking place in Bath. An event that M and I had the INTENTION of signing up for but ended up chickening out at the last minute. Lots of excuses were used…it was raining, no one woke M up from his nap so we missed the registration part of it, we didn’t decorate properly… Curious as to what the event was? It was a pram race! It’s a good thing we didn’t end up taking part because we would’ve definitely been the laughingstock of town. Everyone who participated decorated their pram, had teams, and used prams that worked. The only requirement our pram met was that it had wheels, albeit somewhat non-functional wheels. I kind of wish I’d taken a picture of what our contraption looked like but I guess I ended up saving myself from a wackload of embarrassment…

But the 4 day weekend has no come to an end…it’s back to work tomorrow. Guess I can’t complain too much though since I leave for Canada on Thursday!!! One day workweek- say WHHAAAA???

From city slicker to country bumpkin

I’m currently sitting on a couch watching tv at M’s grandparent’s place in Dorset. I’m going on to about hour 4 and can’t tear my eyes off of “Crimes that shook the world”. Don’t judge me…we don’t watch tv in Bath and one of my favourite reasons for visiting his grandparents is to get my fix of tv..I watch enough to last me the next 3 months. I haven’t watched Desperate Housewives for 2 years but after watching 3 back-to-back episodes I’m now fully caught up again and have resumed the addiction I so vividly remember from 5 years ago.

I absolutely love going for the countryside visits. It’s not that Bath is this overly hectic and bustling city that exhausts me to no end or anything, but my Broadwindsor getaways are so tranquil and fun that I don’t think I’ll ever tire of coming. I’m fairly certain that given the option of choosing between a weekend of late night clubbing or going down south for a weekend that includes card games, countryside walks and a Sunday roast, the latter would always trump the former. Hopefully M’s grandparents won’t ever tire of us visiting. We have an awful habit of devouring all food in sight and are waiting for that to be held against us.

M’s grandparents are, to put very eloquently, really cool. I mean, how often do you get to meet grandparents who use Facebook, Skype, sign petitions to increase their broadband speed, say things like “We watched a really funny American cartoon they other day…something called Northern Park?? (i.e. South Park) and refuse to let your wine glass stay empty for more than 5 seconds during dinner (i.e. teatime)??

I know that I’m always guaranteed a good laugh whenever I come, whether it’s due to getting lost whenever we go for countryside walks (this has become somewhat of a regular occurrence, wherein walks that should only take 2.5 hrs somehow stretch to 4 hr walks), learning the art of baking (M’s nan graciously gives me credit whenever I assist with making dessert…she told everyone I helped make today’s yummy strawberry meringue dessert when all I did was pour in sugar into the whipped egg whites), or getting involved in family feuds (we had a game of Settlers one time that ended up with M yelling at his granddad to make a move that would stop me from winning, which his granddad construed as cheating. I think M has since been removed from his will).

This visit has been extra special because of the Easter weekend. We arrived Saturday morning and were greeted with a full English breakfast (wow! They love me! They really, really love me!): fried eggs, toast, bacon, baked beans. M said he thinks if I lived here I’d become a big huge ball, which would be true if we didn’t always go on the long walks I mentioned that probably burn a good 4000 calories. To be honest, these walks tire me out. I’m still not really used to the concept of exercise and England is full of rolley hills, which appear to all be located within 1 mile of where his grandparents live :S. I have to tell myself that if his nan can plow through these walks then I can do it too! Yesterday’s walk down Common Water Lane was particularly fun and memorable because M got full on chased by a really vicious goose. If you think the geese at UW are crazy just wait til you come here. The male geese here are so protective of their land that I find them more intimidating than Dobermans. Being the manly man M [thinks he] is, he approached a goose (after being egged on by his nan and I) only to have it go into attack mode. What is attack mode? Picture extended wings, stretched out neck, an open beak to expose their razor sharp teeth, running after a very terrified boy, I mean…man. M made it past the fence in time, but I would’ve been interested to see a man vs. nature showdown.

I’m not wearing pants that are especially tight right now but my stomach is hanging over my pants due to the HUUUGGGEEEE turkey feast we had today. The feast started at 3PM and I think we ate until 5:30PM. I probably didn’t have to eat all the chocolate I was given, but did you not know that it’s rude to turn down food when it’s offered to you?? English people LOVE their gigantic chocolate eggs here. I think we have them back home but from what I remember we didn’t make such a huge deal about it. Just a package of mini eggs would suffice, no?  Not here, though. I think kids probably average out to get 5 large chocolate eggs (that come with Twix, Flakes, Cadbury crème eggs, Mars, Snickers…you name it, there’ll be an egg for it) and polish off the whole lot in one day.

The countryside dream will come to an end tomorrow. We’ll be back soon enough, but in the meantime I’ll be sure to swipe some leeks, potatoes, zucchinis, and maybe another jar of marmalade to keep me going until our next visit ;).

Pictures of my countryside adventures: